Couple delivers baby at Salvation Army shelter

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By Robert DeBerry –

On Jan. 24, 2017, at 8:20 a.m., Hannah Johnson and David Dumpson welcomed their baby boy, Kahleel, into the world. But it wasn’t the time of day that made this birth unique—it was the place.

Kahleel was born in room 14 at The Salvation Army McKinnell House. The shelter, which serves homeless families in Anchorage, Alaska, has had pregnant residents before, but this marked the very first time a resident had given birth within its walls.

Dumpson and Johnson had only been at McKinnell House with their two-year-old son, Kohen, for about six weeks, and giving birth at the shelter is not something they (or their caseworker) had planned.

“Our caseworker kept telling us we were not going to have the baby here. ‘We are going to have you in a house before you have the baby,’” Johnson said. “We even had a [housing] appointment the day before the baby came…Literally the very next day, we had the baby at the McKinnell House.”

Johnson, 22, said the family was getting ready for breakfast when she started feeling sick. Dumpson told her she might not want to go to breakfast if she was in pain.

“So we waited, but I started getting my contractions,” Johnson said. “That was at about 7:30 a.m.”

Johnson decided they should probably go to the hospital, but by then, it was too late. “I literally just put on my clothes to go to the hospital,” she said. “Then, bam! My water broke.”  

David Dumpson and Hannah Johnson with their son Kohen, 2, and new baby, Kahleel.

Around this time, McKinnell House employee Jason Williams came to check on the mother-to-be. He noticed they didn’t come to breakfast and wanted to make sure everything was alright. Dumpson answered the door and said, “Hannah’s in labor.”

Johnson’s mother, who was on the phone, convinced them to call the paramedics. By that point, the contractions were coming every minute. It had reached the point that both Johnson and Dumpson knew this was happening right now.

The dispatcher on the other end of the phone told Johnson to take off all her garments and lie on the bed, but the line kept getting disconnected, which made it difficult for her to coach them through the birth.

“She kept calling back and asked if we could see the head,” Johnson said. “I was hoping we could still make it make it to the hospital.”

But that wouldn’t be an option. After the dispatcher coached Johnson a little more on how to breathe, she asked again if they could see the head. This time, they did.

Dumpson said he was was worried about getting the baby out safely.

“I looked down, and I saw a little patch of hair,” he said. “Then she started pushing, and I had to pivot his head. I had to move his head upward so he could breathe. Then his head was out.”

“I started pushing and I screamed so loud,” Johnson said. “I don’t understand how nobody heard me. I was screaming. Then, I just pushed three times, and he was out…I am just happy David was there to catch the baby.”

A little over a week later, both parents agreed that the birth will give them something special to talk about for a long time.

“Literally this is The Salvation Army, and I am a veteran,” Dumpson said. “People probably would think, ‘I don’t want to have a baby in a homeless shelter’ but it was a really good experience.”

Johnson agreed. “It was so awesome,” she said. “We bonded like crazy. He delivered the baby. I will never forget that. This is one of the greatest memories ever, and it happened here.”

Johnson said she impressed a lot of people with her toughness.

“Even the paramedics were like ‘wow, how did you do that?’” she said.

The next step for the new parents is transitioning into their own housing and getting a car. Dumpson said he is in line to receive job training so he can “provide a more stable foundation for this little mini family.”

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